Top Tips For Travelling By Car This Summer

How to get ready for summer travel

2020 has been a rollercoaster year so far. But the summer isn’t over yet and most of us are still trying to make the most of it. With many international travel restrictions still in effect, summer travel this year will be very different for many of us. Domestic travel by road this summer is looking like a great option to consider.

Before you head off for a road trip, here are some top tips to keep in mind:

Pre-Travel

  • Packing up all your summer road trip essentials
    Besides your favourite summer hat, make sure you pack things that will come in handy. Some essentials include a roadside emergency kit and first aid kit, reusable bottles of water and snacks, sunscreen and most importantly a playlist that includes all your favourite road trip sing-alongs.
  • Is your car ready for a summer road trip? 
    If your vehicle hasn’t been used to any great extent recently, it is recommended to do a thorough checkup of your vehicle in advance and get any issues fixed prior to traveling. Check our 6 car checks you can do yourself here.
  • COVID-19 precautions you can take
    Once you decide your destination, do your research about local guidelines and policies. Some beaches and tourist locations have rules in place to ensure the safety of both the locals as well as tourists.Along with the mandated face mask, it’s advisable to carry sufficient hand sanitiser, disinfectant wipes and sprays.

During Your Travel

  • Social Distancing
    With COVID-19 still being a significant threat to our health, it’s important to maintain social distancing especially at high touchpoint areas such as petrol stations, garages or even convenience stores.
  • Sanitising
    Use that hand sanitiser you carried if you come in contact with any public space. When you re-enter or exit your vehicle, it is advisable to sanitise or wash your hands for 20 seconds whenever possible.
  • Eating out
    If you are to dining out, make sure you double down on the preventative measures and take all the precautions needed to protect yourself and the people you interact with. The government has provided more guidance for your journey here.

Once You’re back home

  • Clean Up
    Or even better, do a deep clean! Make sure you separate your clothes for laundry and hop into the shower. Disinfect your car and any other surfaces such as luggage, picnic baskets, coolers, etc.

At ClickMechanic, we offer contact-free car servicing & repairs to help keep customers and mechanics safe. If you are concerned that your vehicle may not be ready to drive or if you are not sure what is wrong with your car then place a booking online for our 28-point Vehicle Health Check.

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Is Your Car Touring Ready?

After more than 3 months, lockdown restrictions will be eased on caravan and touring parks from the 4th of July in England. As the British Summer is well and truly here in its full glory, no doubt many of you will be keen to get away in your Motorhome or take your caravan somewhere to enjoy our celebrated beauty spots.

However, before doing so, especially if your vehicle hasn’t been used to any great extent recently, it is recommended to do a thorough checkup of your vehicle in advance. The last thing you’d want is a delayed or even an abandoned break.

Checks To Carry Out Before Travelling

  • Battery
    If you have had to recently “jump start” your vehicle after it was not used for a while, make sure that it is now starting up without any problems, especially if being left for a few days. A flat battery can spell disaster on a road trip.
  • Fluids
    Check the levels of your vehicle’s essential fluids thoroughly. Ensure your engine oil is in-between the minimum and maximum marks of the dipstick, top up if required using the correct oil, but do not overfill.Check that your coolant has recently been refreshed and is in between the minimum and maximum marks on the header tank, topping up if required – but please do both the check and top up when the engine is cold.It is also worthwhile to check your windscreen washer fluid reservoir and top that up too.
  • Tyres
    Make sure your tyre pressures are correct and make any adjustments required, especially if you intend to tow a caravan as the pressure requirements on the rear may be slightly different from those when unladen. Also check your spare wheel – and of course your caravan’s tyres!
  • Lights
    Do a visual check of all your lights AND those of your caravan and replace any failed bulbs or have any electrical issues resolved in towing electrical connections well in advance.
  • Brakes
    Take a moment to visually inspect your brake pads, through the wheels, where possible. Towing adds extra pressure and reliance on good brakes. You’d be surprised at the amount of call-outs for brakes that are received from holiday destinations!
  • Clutch
    Does your clutch pedal feel it has good even pressure and have you noticed any untoward noises, snatching as you change gear or even difficulty getting into gear. Now would be a good time to have that looked at.

Aside from that, don’t forget to check your cigarette lighter socket is working properly, so you can charge mobile devices, and ensure you carry your car insurance and breakdown assistance details with you.

A note from our Mechanic in Residence

Drive carefully with due consideration to other road users, know the speed limits and check the access before heading down a lane and off the main highway. You may not be in a rush, but do check your mirrors for following traffic and pull over when safe to do so to let the “locals” past you. We do appreciate it, especially down here in Devon! Happy Touring!

– Nigel, ClickMechanic’s Mechanic in Residence and Devon resident!

If you are unsure whether your vehicle is safe and ready to drive for a longer road trip, then book a FREE phone consultation  with one of our experienced in-house mechanics or place a booking online for our 28-point Vehicle Health Check.

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5 Essential Car Checks To Do If You’ll Need To Start Using Your Car Again

As we’re sure you’ll be aware, the government has recently reviewed the Coronavirus restrictions and has made some changes.

For some people this may now mean you will start to use your car again after a longer period of being parked up or used a lot less than usual. If that is the case, you will likely find that your car may struggle to start or has other issues that will prevent it from performing optimally. Like humans, it needs a little stretch when it comes out of slumber!

However, there are a few checks you can do now to help ensure your car is safe and ready to set off again.

5 Essential Checks To Ensure Your Car Is Ready To Drive

  1. Battery & Electrics
    If your vehicle hasn’t been started periodically then the battery is likely to be flat. Firstly, insert the key into the ignition and switch to the first position, and if no lights come on, it’s very flat, if when you try to start the engine, the light flickers and you get either a slow turn of the engine or a rapid clicking, then the battery is too low on power.If you are not comfortable with or are unable to get help jump starting the battery, book an inspection with ClickMechanic for a technician to come out and help.
  2. Engine
    If you are fortunate and the engine starts, allow the vehicle to idle for 5 minutes before driving off. This will allow things to warm up gradually, belts to ease back into life and the cooling system time to circulate.
  3. Wheels & Tyres
    Whilst the engine is idling and warming up, it is a good time to check your tyre pressures as under-inflation will cause damage to the sidewall if you drive with low pressure in them, as well as being dangerous!
  4. Suspension
    During the tyre pressure check, take a quick look at the gap between the top of the tyres and the wheel arches and make sure it is even on both sides. If not, it could be a clear indication that a spring has broken whilst the vehicle has been stationary.
  5. Brakes
    Finally when you are ready to drive off, dab the brakes a few times and gently depress the clutch pedal a few times if it is a manual.If you haven’t driven your vehicle, inevitably your brake discs will gain a coating of rust. This is quite normal and in most cases once the car is moving and the brakes have been applied a few times, this will clean off. It may be a bit noisy to start with, but it’s ok!Hopefully, your handbrake will not have stuck on. However, if, as you drive off, the wheels drag or the car won’t move but instead rises up, it has stuck on! Do not under any circumstances simply try and keep driving it to release it as you can damage the brakes. Book a mechanic to come out and do it safely.One last word of advice, give your windscreen a wash as it’s likely to smear quite badly at the first few swipes so it’s best to do that before you set off!

If you are concerned that your vehicle may have become unsafe, unreliable or something has happened to it, book a FREE phone consultation with one of our experienced in-house mechanics or place a booking online for our contact-free mobile mechanic service.

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How To Keep Your Car Safe And Ready To Drive

As we’re sure you’ll be aware, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 the government has asked everyone to stay home for all but essential travel. That means using your car only for the most essential journeys like shopping for basic necessities, attending to medical needs or, if you cannot work from home, travelling to and from work.

As a consequence of this, your car may move a lot less than usual, or potentially not move at all. Like humans, cars do not cope well with being left alone. They seize up, go flat and will moan and groan when they do have to move again.

So we decided to pull together 5 essential tips to help keep your car in good shape and ready for when you need it.

5 Tips To Keep Your Vehicle Safe And Ready

Battery & Electrics

If your vehicle isn’t started periodically then the battery is likely to go flat. Despite being switched off, certain circuits like the alarm and immobiliser do take a trickle of power, and can drain the battery over time.

So, to keep your battery in good shape, once a week at least, start the engine and let it run up to temperature to give the battery a boost.

Engine

To prolong the life of your engine and reduce the chance of seizure start the engine on a weekly basis. By starting the engine, you will give the oil a chance to warm up and run around the internal components and lubricate them.

It also gives the drive belts a chance to move their position against pulleys, tensioners and guides. If you don’t do this, the belts can become weakened at the constant pressure points.

The engine coolant will also get to circulate and as it also includes a rust inhibitor it will dilute any condensation and refresh the system. Once started, all the other items such as your alternator and water pump will self lubricate their bearings, once again prolonging their life and reducing the chance of seizure.

Wheels & Tyres

If a vehicle is left standing for a period of time, the sidewalls of the tyre in that one position will take all the strain. Moving the car forwards or backwards by just half a wheel turn will shift the pressure point.

This is also a good time to check your tyre pressures as under-inflation will cause further damage to the sidewall and may even render the tyre dangerous.

Suspension

Just like our joints, your car’s suspension needs to be kept supple. We are not suggesting going out for a drive but a little bit of movement can make all the difference! Even just sitting in the car will move a lot of the components enough to prevent most issues. You would be surprised by the amount of springs that break when a car is left stationary for a long period!

Brakes

When you give your car its weekly warm up, dab the brakes a few times and while your feet are down there, give the clutch pedal a bit of exercise as well if it’s a manual!

If you don’t drive your vehicle, inevitably your brake discs will gain a coating of rust. This is quite normal and in most cases once the car is moving and the brakes applied a few times, this will clean off. It may be a bit noisy to start with, but it’s ok!

And finally, don’t leave the parking brake on unless really necessary!

If you leave your parking brake on for a long period, it is highly likely it will “stick on”. So although you released the handle, the brakes are still applied. You will feel the car try and move but it may drag the wheel(s) or rise up and not budge! To prevent this, leave the car in gear and release the handbrake if it is a manual, or simply leave it in P on an automatic.

If you do forget and it sticks on, do not under any circumstances simply try and keep driving it to release it as you can damage the brakes. Book a mechanic to come out and do it safely.

If you are concerned that your vehicle may have become unsafe, unreliable or something has happened to it, book a FREE phone consultation with one of our experienced in-house mechanics or you can use our new contact-free service to place a booking.

Damages potholes can do to a car

Damages Potholes can do to a car

Like plants, potholes grow with the rain. During the winter, rainwater puddles on the surface, but gets into the cracks between the tarmac. Underneath the tarmac, it freezes pushing the tarmac out as it expands into ice. This combined with the constant pressure of vehicles driving overtop causes potholes to quickly form.

The most recent RAC pothole index shows that drivers are 1.7 times more likely to break down with pothole-related damage than they were in 2006 when the RAC began tracking.

These holes in the road aren’t just a simple bump, they are a serious issue for car owners. They can grow metres wide, or have drivers swerve to avoid them. Potholes increase the likelihood of a crash, and can cause expensive damage to your vehicle.

You might hit a pothole dead on, or just clip it with the side of a wheel. Two things will typically affect the extent of the damage caused:

  1. The speed at which you hit the pothole
  2. The depth of the pothole

We’ll take a closer look at the damages potholes can do to your car.

Increase tyre wear and tear

Tyres are designed for contact with the road, not to be bounced around or scraped against a hole. This means potholes can cause some serious damage like sidewall bulges, tread separation, or even punctures. Tyres dip into potholes, and under the car’s weight, compresses into shape. The hard tarmac can then cut into the rubber, damaging the wall or snapping structural belts within the tyre. Inflating your tyres to the recommended levels can help resist against pothole damage.

Damages wheels through potholes

Large potholes can cause scratches on your rims or even damage to the wheels. The harsh drop of some deep potholes impacts your wheels in a way they aren’t designed to handle. Cars aren’t regularly ‘dropped’ so have little resistance against wheel damage in these situations. Potholes can chip, crack, or bend a wheel. Chips and cracks are usually difficult to notice, as the tyre may cover up any damage. Bent wheels will not roll smoothly, and can impact on the performance of the tyres too. Significant chips, cracks or bends need to be replaced immediately, as it compromises the safety of the vehicle.

Driving through potholes affects your vehicle’s suspension

The suspension is designed to support the vehicle’s weight, absorb rough road driving, and ensure the tyre stays in contact with the road. A ‘drop’ into a pothole can cause suspension problems such as damaged shock absorbers, and broken ball joints. A damaged shock absorber or broken ball joints will cause a vibrating noise, wandering steering. A qualified mechanic will need to inspect the suspension system before individual parts are completely replaced.

The exhaust system can be damaged by potholes

Exhausts run along the length of the vehicle, and mufflers especially hang quite low. A deep pothole can potentially cause the exhaust system to scrape along the ground. Even some speed bumps can damage the exhaust system. The tarmac can cause scratches, dents, or even rip holes into the exhaust pipes, muffler, or catalytic converter. In extreme cases, you may lose power but over time you will usually experience a fall in fuel mileage as exhaust leaks cause the engine to use more fuel. You will want to check for damage, after particularly harsh scrapes. This may mean you have to get a mechanic round to hoist up the car and have a look underneath the car.

The vehicle body can be dented or scratched

Deep potholes can obviously scratch paint, especially around wheel rims and bumpers. They will also kick up dirt and tarmac, which means more cleaning.

Driving through potholes can cause alignment issues

Alignment issues can be quite noticeable when turning, as your steering wheel is off-center, the car pulls back in one direction, or the handling feels loose. Misalignment also causes tyres to wear down faster since one side is overused.

The final verdict on potholes

Don’t ignore a loud scrape or knock from a pothole! You can even claim back on potholes, and get the hole filled. Come to ClickMechanic to get a full quote and receipt for the job, which you can easily use as evidence for a pothole letter to the council.

Happy Driving

Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash

How to get the best car repair experience possible

We recently asked our customers about their experiences with mechanics and garages. A large proportion told us that they find engaging with a mechanic or garage a daunting experience.

Engaging with a mechanic or garage can be scary for a couple of reasons. Old school garages can be intimidating places with all the noise, smells, tools and machinery, especially if you don’t know a great deal about cars. To help cut through all of this, here are our top tips on how to overcome any car care anxieties, create a trusting relationship with a mechanic and get the best car repair experience possible:

Be nice 

It sounds simple but people often forget that mechanics are also human beings and want to deal with nice people. Don’t worry that you do not possess any technical understanding – that is what the mechanics are here for.

Ask questions around the repair and the mechanic’s experience

When you’re handing over your car to a mechanic, you want to know if it is in good hands. The best way to find out is to ask him or her some questions around the problem and way of working. Here is a list of questions we prepared for exactly this case.

Get familiar with your car

This sounds silly but this tactic helps to tackle car repair-related anxieties. You don’t have to become an expert but it helps reading the car owner’s manual, perform regular oil checks or simply have a look under the bonnet. How does the engine look like, where are fluids located? This basic knowledge helps you understand things better when you speak to a mechanic about a repair.

Plan and budget for car maintenance

Costs for car maintenance are a necessary life cost you should budget for like you do with your rent, mortgage or bills. The downside is, if it is not an MOT or service, you can’t plan for a repair so it often comes at the most inconvenient times. A high unplanned expense understandably can add to the daunting feeling which can overcome you when you step into a workshop. If it is possible, set a fixed amount of money aside on a regular basis, dedicated to cover the surprise repair costs.

Happy driving!

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Photo by Glenn Hansen on Unsplash

Road Safety Advice Every Driver Should Know

Every 20 minutes, someone is seriously injured or killed on British roads. These accidents are all preventable if simple rules of road safety are followed.

Easy to follow road safety tips

Slow down

Speed is a crucial factor when it comes to road safety. The faster you drive, the greater the risk of accidents. Driving within the speed limit and using suitable speed in bad weather conditions is common sense. At speeds exceeding 50mph, a reduction in speed by 1mph can lower the likelihood of crashes by up to 5%. Test your knowledge with the Road Safety Stopping Distance Game

Never drive under the influence of drugs and alcohol

It is widely known that drugs and alcohol impair drivers’ judgment and perception, even small amounts below the legal driving limit can impact your reactions in traffic. Better be safe than sorry and plan ahead to get home safely.

It might take some courage but if you see someone planning on driving after a few drinks, try to persuade them to leave their car until the next day. Don’t get into the car with someone who has been drinking.

And don’t forget those mornings after a night out. Use this handy calculator to see how long you should wait before you get behind the wheel again. As a final thought: if you are taking any medication, even flu medicine can impair your ability to drive.

Stay focused and calm

Make sure you stay sharp and focused when driving. Planning your journeys and anticipate traffic events ahead can really take the stress out of driving. If you are feeling tired after some time behind the wheel, take a break. It is recommended to break up longer journeys after 2 hours for some fresh air and a stretch of your legs.

Avoid driving if you are under stress or feel angry as your mind might not be fully focused on the task at hand – driving safely. In these situations, it is recommended to wait for a while before driving off to allow yourself to calm down and refocus on safely driving your car.

Not only your mind can have an impact on how focused you are. Your eyes are working overtime while driving, so it is vital to have your eyes checked regularly and wear glasses or lenses if you have been prescribed some. This reduces tiredness and ensures your vision is perfectly clear and unobstructed while on the road.

Keep your passengers safe too

If you are regularly traveling with passengers in your car, it is vital to ensure they are as safe as possible – even on short journeys. Insist that everyone traveling in your car is putting the seat belt on before you take off. When you are traveling with children, always ensure they sit in fitting and appropriate child seats and are buckled up correctly.

Make your car safe to travel

There are a few more things drivers can do to contribute to safer journeys and car maintenance is key here. Have your lights and brakes checked regularly, e.g. during your regular car servicing appointment, ensure your tyres are inflated to the correct pressure and remove any unnecessary weight you are driving around in your car. We have written a handy post about the 5 car and road safety checks you should perform before a long-distance journey.

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Happy driving and safe travels!